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est magnitude. Murder is an injury to the life of an individual; but the law of society considers principally the loss which the state sustains by being deprived of a member, and the pernicious example thereby set for others to do the like. Robbery may be considered in the same view : it is an injury to private property ; but were that all, a civil satisfaction in damages might atone for it: the public mischief is the thing, for the prevention of which our laws have made it a capital offence. In these gross
and atrocious injuries the private wrong is swallowed up in the public: we seldom hear any mention made of satisfaction to the individual; the satisfaction to the community being so very great. And indeed, as the public crime is not otherwise avenged than by forfeiture of life and property, it is impossible afterwards to make any reparation for the private wrong: which can only be had from the body or goods of the aggressor (8), (9). But there are crimes of an inferior nature, in which the public punishment is not so severe, but it affords room for a private compertsation also (10); and herein the distinction of crimes from civil injuries is very apparent. For instance; in the case of battery, or beating another, the aggressor may be indicted for this at the suit of the king, for disturbing the public peace, and by punished criminally by fine and imprisonment; and the party beaten may also have his private remedy by action of trespass for the injury which he in particular sustains, and recover a civil satisfaction in damages (11). So also, in case of a public nuisance, as digging a ditch across a highway, this is punishable by indictment, as a common offence to the whole kingdom and all his majesty's subjects ; but if any individual sustains any special damage thereby, as laming his horse, breaking his [ 7 ] carriage, or the like, the offender may be compelled to make ample satisfaction, as well for the private injury as for the public wrong (12).
Upon the whole we may observe, that in taking cognizance of all wrongs, or unlawful acts, the law has a double view : viz. not only to redress the party injured, by either restoring to him his right, if possible; or by giving him an equivalent; the manner of doing which was the object of our inquiries in the preceding book of these Commentaries; but also to secure to the public the benefit of society, by preventing or punishing
(8) The civil right to sue for the injury the other property. Any person injured by a feloparty has received in a case of felony is not in ny for which the offender is committed to the general merged or destroyed, but only suspend. state prison, can recover damages in a suit ed until he has performed his duty to society, against the trustees of the felon's estate. (Id by an endeavour to bring the offender to jus. 700.) tice: and after the party on whom suspicion (10) See 6 East, 158. was fixed has been convicted or acquitted, (11) The court of Common Pleas will not without collusion, the prosecutor may support compel a party who has proceeded both by inan action for the same cause as that on which dictment and action for the same assault, to the criminal prosecution was founded. Styles, make his election upon which he will rely, 346. 12 East, 409. Rep. T. Hardw. 350. 17 Jones v. Clay, 1 Bos. and Pul. 191 ; and, Ves. 329. No action can be brought, or bill though it was formerly held, that in general, in equity field, in relation to a felony, until if the party moved for a criminal information, the offender has been duly tried for the offence, he must abandon any action, that doctrine id. ibid. ; or that every exertion has been made seems to have been broken in upon by a very to bring him to justice. See further on this recent case in the court of King's Bench, point, ante, 3 book, 119. note.
Caddy v. Barlow, 1 Man. and Ryl. 275, where (9) In New York, stolen property in the it was held in an action by A. for the malicious possession of any officer, is to be returned to prosecution by C. of an indictment against A. the owner on his paying the expences incurred and B., and that a rule for a criminal informain its preservation, at any time within six tion obtained by A., and made absolute, was months after the conviction of the offender, or no bar to the action. See also the note to that before such conviction. If not claimed in that
case, Id. 278. time, it is applied to the use of the poor. (2 R. (12) 6 East, 158. See cases of actions, note, S. 746, 747.) If in possession of any other 3 book 200, note. person, it may be claimed the same as any
every breach and violation of those laws, which the sovereign power has thought proper to establish for the government and tranquillity of the whole. What those breaches are, and how prevented or punished, are to be considered in the present book.
II. The nature of crimes and misdemeanors in general being thus ascertained and distinguished, I proceed, in the next place, to consider the gene-ral nature of punishments : which are evils or inconveniences consequent upon crimes and misdemeanors ; being devised, denounced, and inflicted by human laws, in consequence of disobedience or misbehaviour in those, to regulate whose conduct such laws were respectively made. And herein we will briefly consider the power, the end, and the measure of human punishment
1. As to the power of human punishment, or the right of the temporal legislator to inflict discretionary penalties for crimes and misdemeanors (h). It is clear, that the right of punishing crimes against the law of nature, as murder and the like, is in a state of mere nature vested in every individual. For it must be vested in somebody; otherwise the laws of nature would be vain and fruitless, if none were empowered to put them in exe
cution: and if that power is vested in any one, it must also be [ *8 ] vested in all mankind ; *since all are by nature equal. Whereof
the first murderer Cain was so sensible, that we find him (i) expressing his apprehensions, that whoever should find him would slay him. In a state of society this right is transferred from individuals to the sovereign power; whereby men are prevented from being judges in their own causes, which is one of the evils that civil government was intended to remedy. Whatever power therefore individuals had of punishing offences against the law of nature, that is now vested in the magistrate alone; who bears the sword of justice by the consent of the whole community. And to this precedent natural power of individuals must be referred that right, which some have argued to belong to every state (though, in fact, never exercised by any), of punishing not only their own subjects, but also foreign ambassadors, even with death itself; in case they have offended, not indeed against the municipal laws of the country, but against the divine laws of nature, and become liable thereby to forfeit their lives for their guilt (k).
As to offences merely against the laws of society, which are only mala prohibita, and not mala in se; the temporal magistrate is also empowered to inflict coercive penalties for such transgressions ; and this by the consent of individuals; who, in forming societies, did either tacitly or expressly invest the sovereign power with the right of making laws, and of enforcing obedience to them when made, by exercising, upon their nonobservance, severities adequate to the evil. The lawfulness therefore of punishing such criminals is founded upon this principle, that the law by which they suffer was made by their own consent; it is a part of the original contract into which they entered, when first they engaged in society ; it was calculated for, and has long contributed to, their own security.
This right therefore, being thus conferred by universal consent, gives to the state exactly the same power, and no more, over all its members, as
each individual member had naturally over himself or others. [ *9 ] Which has *occasioned some to doubt, how far a human le
(h) See Grotius, de j.b.p. 7. 2, c. 20. Puffendorf. L. of Nat. & N. b. 8, c 3.
(1) Gen. iv. 14.
gislature ought to inflict capital punishments for positive offences; offences against the municipal law only, and not against the law of nature: since no individual has, naturally, a power of inflicting death upon himself or others for actions in themselves indifferent. With regard to offences male in se, capital punishments are in some instances inflicted by the immediate command of God himself to all mankind; as in the case of murder, by the precept delivered to Noah, their common ancestor and representative, “ whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed (1).” In other instances they are inflicted after the example of the Creator, in his positive code of laws for the regulation of the Jewish republic: as in the case of the crime against nature. But they are sometimes inflicted without such express warrant or example, at the will and discretion of the human legislature; as for forgery, for theft, and sometimes for offences of a lighter kind. Of these we are principally to speak; as these crimes are, none of m, offences against natural, but only againsl social rights ; not even theft itself, unless it be accompanied with violence to one's house or person: all others being an infringement of that right of property, which, as we have formerly seen (m), owes its origin not to the law of nature, but merely to civil society (13).
The practice of inflicting capital punishments, for offences of human institution, is thus justified by that great and good man, sir Matthew Hale (n): “When offences grow enormous, frequent, and dangerous to a kingdom or state, destructive or highly pernicious to civil societies, and to the great insecurity and danger of the kingdom or its inhabitants, severe punishment and even death itself is necessary to be annexed to laws in many cases by the prudence of lawgivers.” It is therefore the enormity, or dangerous tendency, of the crime that alone can warrant any earthly legislature in putting him to death that commits it. *it [ *10 ] is not its frequency only, or the difficulty of otherwise preventing it, that will excuse our attempting to prevent it by a wanton effusion of human blood. For, though the end of punishment is to deter men from offending, it never can follow from thence, that it is lawful to deter them at any rate and by any means; since there may be unlawful methods of enforcing obedience even to the justest laws. Every humane legislator will be therefore extreinely cautious of establishing laws that inflict the penalty of death, especially for slight offences, or such as are merely positive. He will expect a better reason for his so doing, than that loose one which generally is given ; that it is found by former experience that no lighter penalty will be effectual. For it is found upon farther experience, that capital punishments are more effectual ? Was the vast territory of all the Russias worse regulated under the late empress Elizabeth, than under her more sanguinary predecessors? Is it now, under Catherine II. less civilized, less social, less secure ? And yet we are assured, that neither of these illustrious princesses have, throughout their whole adminis
() Gen. ir. 6.
(13) It is strange that the learned Judge's If theft be not a violation of the law of nature conclusion, viz. that theft itself is not an offence and reason, it would follow that there is no against natural rights, dN not lead him to sus. moral turpitude in dishonesty. “Non igitur pect the fallacy of the position, that the right magis est contra naturam morbus aut egestas of property owes its origin not to the law of na. aut quid hujusmodi quam detractio aut appeture, but merely to civil society, which he has litio alieni."- Cic. Thou shall not steal, is also advanced in a former book.(2 book, p. 11.) certainly one of the first precepts both of na and which I have there prosumed to controvert. ture and religion
(n) 1 Hal. P. C. 13.
tration, inflicted the penalty of death: and the latter has, upon full persuasion of its being useless, nay even pernicious, given orders for abolishing it entirely throughout her extensive dominions (o). But indeed, were capital punishments proved by experience to be a sure and effectual remedy, that would not prove the necessity (upon which the justice and propriety depend) of inflicting them upon all occasions when other expedients fail
. I fear this reasoning would extend a great deal too far. For instance, the damage done to our public roads by loaded wagons is universally allowed, and many laws have been made to prevent it; none of which have hitherto proved effectual. But it does not therefore follow that it would be just for the legislature to inflict death upon every obstinate carrier, who defeats or eludes the provision of former statutes. Where the evil to be prevented is not adequate to the violence of the preventive, a sovereign
that thinks seriously can never justify such a law to the dictates [*11] of conscience and humanity. To shed the blood of our fellow
creature is a matter that requires the greatest deliberation and the fullest conviction of our own authority : for life is the immediate gift of God to man; which neither he can resign, nor can it be taken from him, unless by the command or permission of him who gave it; either express, ly revealed, or collected from the laws of nature or society by clear and indisputable demonstration.
I would not be understood to deny the right of the legislature in any country to enforce its own laws by the death of the transgressor, though persons of some abilities have doubted it; but only to suggest a few hints for the consideration of such as are, or may hereafter become, legislators. When a question arises, whether death may be lawfully inflicted for this or that trangression, the wisdom of the laws must decide it; and to this public judgment or decision all private judgments must submit; else there is an end of the first principle of all society and government. The guilt of blood, if any, must lie at their doors, who misinterpret the extent of their warrant; and not at the doors of the subject, who is bound to receive the interpretations that are given by the sovereign power.
2. As to the end or final cause of human punishments. This is not by way of atonement or expiation for the crime committed; for that mnst be left to the just determination of the Supreme Being: but as a precaution against future offences of the same kind. This is effected three ways: either by the amendment of the offender himself; for which purpose all corporal punishments, fines, and temporary exile or imprisonment are inflicted: or, by deterring others by the dread of his example from offending in the like way,“ ut poena (as Tully (p) expresses it) ad paucos, metus ad
omnes, perveniat ;" which gives rise to all ignominious punish[ *12 ] ments, and to such executions of justice as are open and public: *or,
lastly, by depriving the party injuring of the power to do future mischief; which is effected by either putting him to death, or condemning, him to perpetual confinement, slavery, or exile. The same one end, of preventing future crimes, is endeavoured to be answered by each of these three species of punishment. The public gains equal security, whether the offender himself be amended by wholesome correction, or whether he be disabled from doing any farther harm: and if the penalty fails of both these effects, as it may do, still the terror of his example remains as a warn
(0) Grand instructions for framing a new code (p) Pro Cluentio, 46. of laws for the Russian empire, $ 210.
ing to otber citizens. The method however of inflicting punishment ought always in be proportioned to the particular purpose it is meant to serve, and by ro means to exceed it: therefore the pains of death, and perpetual disability by exile, slavery, or imprisonment, ought never to be inflicted, but when the offender appears incorrigible : which may be collected either from a repetition of minuter offences; or from the perpetration of some one crime of deep malignity, which of itself demonstrates a disposition without hope or probability of amendment: and in such cases it would be cruelty to the public to defer the punishment of such a criminal, till he had an opportunity of repeating perhaps the worst of villanies.
3. As to the measure of human punishments. From what has been observed in the former articles we may collect, that the quantity of punishment can never be absolutely determined by any standing invariable rule ; but it must be left to the arbitration of the legislature to inflict such penalties as are warranted by the laws of nature and society, and such as appear to be the best calculated to answer the end of precaution against future offences.
Hence it will be evident, that what some have so highly extolled for its equity, the lex talionis, or law of retaliation, can never be in all cases an adequate or permanent rule of punishment. In some cases indeed it seems to be dictated by natural reason; as in the case of conspiracies to do an injury, or false accusations of the innocent: to which we may add that law of the Jews and Egyptians, mentioned by *Josephus and [*13] Diodorus Siculus, that whoever without sufficient cause was found with any mortal poison in his custody, should himself be obliged to take it. But, in general, the difference of persons, place, time, provocation, or other circumstances, may enhance or mitigate the offence; and in such cases retaliation can never be a proper measure of justice. If a nobleman strikes a peasant, all mankind will see, that if a court of justice awards a return of the blow, it is more than a just compensation. On the other hand, retaliation may, sometimes, be too easy a sentence; as, if a man maliciously should put out the remaining eye of him who had lost one before, it is too slight a punishment for the maimer to lose only one of his : and therefore the law of the Locrians, which demanded an eye for an eye, was in this instance judiciously altered by decreeing, in imitation of Solon's laws (?), that he who struck out the eye of a one-eyed man, should lose both his own in return. Besides, there are very many crimes, that will inno shape admit of these penalties, without manifest absurdity and wickedness. Theft cannot be punished by theft, defamation by defamation, forgery by forgery, adultery by adultery, and the like. And we may add, that those instances, wherein retaliation appears to be used, even by the divine authority, do not really proceed upon the rule of exact retribution, by doing to the criminal the same hurt he has done to his neighbour, and no more ; but this correspondence between the crime and punishment is barely a consequence from some other principle. Death is ordered to be punished with death ; not because one is equivalent to the other, for that would be expi
. ation, and not punishment. Nor is death always an equivalent for death: the execution of a needy decrepit assassin is a poor satisfaction for the murder of a nobleman in the bloom of his youth, and full enjoyment of his friends, his honours, and his fortune (14). But the reason upon which.
(9) Pott. Ant. b. 1, c. 26. (14) Is it possible that the commentator meant to flatter an audience of the sons of nem